Sense of Competence: Never Tell Your Kids They’re Competent

never tell your kids they're competentDeveloping children’s sense of competence entails a delicate balance. For one thing, we parents tell our children a lot of things. We tell them how much we love them or how cute they look in the clothes they’re wearing. Whatever we do, one thing that we should never tell them is that they are competent, and Jim Taylor, Ph.D., tells us why in an article for Psychology Today.

Kids could lose their sense of competence

When we tell our children that they are competent, it often affects them the opposite way according to Dr. Taylor. While understandable that parents would naturally want to boost their children’s self-confidence, children often compare what their parents told them with how things really are in their reality. When there is a sharp contrast between the two, the result is often disappointment, hurt, and—get this—an actual loss of sense of competence.

Dr. Taylor says only first-hand experience can build a child’s sense of competence. In other words, only they can build their own sense of competence. What we parents can do is to encourage them by providing them opportunities to gain that sense of competence. At home, you can assign chores which will allow them to see what they’re good at. The school environment will provide the rest.

Sense of competence: Praise the effort, not the result

Dr. Taylor also echoes what this website has been saying this whole time about praising the effort and not the accomplishment itself. For our children to get the most value out of those experiences and develop self-confidence, we should let them focus on certain competencies that helped them succeed at any given task.

More importantly, we parents should make it known to our children that there will be failures along the way. As long as we remain positive and supportive through failures and disappointments, our children will remain positive themselves and keep on trying, eventually building much needed self-confidence. Show disapproval and frustration over their shortcomings, and they might never try anything ever again.

For more on children’s sense of competence, click here.

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